Not All Opportunity Can Be Found On the Streets of NYC? Is that just me or an ideology?
Growing up in a family that started with nothing, it is easy to see that life is hard and that strife is something that geared my family, more specifically, my grandfather, to be something greater. As a young adult, my grandfather grew up without a family and no one to help him better his education. He refused to take out loans; he feared the very idea of debt especially at such a young age. He attempted a four-year degree but quickly realized that there is more to life than just sitting behind a desk crunching numbers—that’s what everyone was going for. My grandfather decided to go towards the unorthodox route and make himself successful in a realm that was viewed as less than middle class; he decided to become a tradesman, a good one at that. Roberson Scrap is the establishment my grandfather created from the pennies he had in his pocket and the notion that opportunity would guide him into the best economic state. Scrapping metal isn’t a career that kids dream about. Kids dream to become the President of the United States, to become astronauts, or to become famous architects. Instead, my grandfather decided to chase an opportunity rather than a dream, an opportunity that set himself apart from many in his age group. Could it be that viewing some work as insignificant could deter young people from a genuine opportunity?
Perceptions of careers show the misconceptions that many Americans possess: universities offer some form of superiority in the minds of Americans, while vocational workers are seen as peons. Mr. Chris Arnold, a writer for National Public Radio (NPR) stated, “Master electricians and carpenters” are essential, but “lumped with people who work with RadioShack and Target (NPR).” Moreover, loans are an aspect of a student’s life that can determine how their future is to play out, either positively or negatively. Loans follow the mindset that you have to spend money make money, but with ambiguous results. With 4-year university tuitions at an all-time high, there seem to be more negative outcomes in this system. The saturation in the marketplace shows more individuals leaning towards universities than vocational education, but how good is this logic? With the cost of liberal arts degrees climbing to new heights, vocational schools offer a great opportunity for students wanting to be “hands-on”. This opportunity gives an advantage to students with technical backgrounds, leading them to higher paying jobs.
Thousands of dollars are funneled into education systems that train professionals for saturated markets. Thousands of dollars are spent on degrees that generally won’t help the student with the job search. Yet, millions would rather invest in overly saturated markets than in rational, cost-effective education. The Baby Boomers went more for vocational skills than liberal arts, thus creating a demand for work geared toward university-based skills. Mr. Matt Krupnick, writer for the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS), says, “All throughout high school, they made it sound like going to college was our only option” (PBS). Modern high schools push students towards 4-year universities rather than 2-year universities, which often causes economic strife for students in the long run. Arnold, of NPR, writes, “baby-boom workers are retiring and leaving lots of openings for millennials” (NPR). This shows that there are misconstrued beliefs in our nation's high schools—the beliefs that a previous generation is not necessarily concrete opportunity for the next. Is it more economical to acquire a vocational degree that is in high demand or a four-year degree that leads to an overly saturated job market? At this time, considering the nature of the present job market, it is far more practical and economically advantageous to acquire a vocational skill for students who have those aptitudes and interests. The four-year degree is declining in value but its price tag is increasing exponentially.
Most students are leaning towards education systems that will create substantial debt. School counselors, high school principals, and governments push 4-year colleges and their ‘holistic’ teaching. The perception of universities is thought to be far more enriching and far more lucrative than a technical degree. Aspects like career fairs and high school seminars develop the notion that 4-year universities are the only route, and show that there is still some catalytic force pushing a weak ideal created in the 1950’s. As high schools are still promoting 4-year colleges and students are still filling the universities, what will this mean for future adults and their livelihoods? A site known as savingforcollege.com states, if a student were to look at tuition costs in 2015 they would see that an average public university would cost $39,000. If the same student were to use the projected inflation rates of 2.9%+ and look at the projected cost in 2033, the student would see that the same university would cost $94,800. And yet, students that graduated within the past ten years hold the highest percentage of loan debts in America. Writer Jessica Dickler for CNBC suggests students that graduated within the past ten years hold about 62% of the owed, loan-based debt in the nation and that is still rising (CNBC). Students are in a system that set them in a financial crisis, and there is little to no guidance helping them.
Likewise, due to consumer demand for education, there is inherently a price increase, which increases this debt. The question is why? With universities having the advantage in terms of population and want, students are seeing a price increase within these realms. Meanwhile, technical schools keep moderate tuition costs for trades that could pay more than a psychology major could ever imagine. Statistics from The American Psychological Association (APA) points out, “The average psychologist makes $45,000 a year” while “45.3% of the population that attends college is of this field” (APA). That is nearly 50% of a population consuming one field of a career. Meanwhile, a statistic from US News reveals that degrees like plumbing and heating earn a net salary from “$75,000 to $100,000 a year” (US News). Why is it that a highly popularized system leads to a less lucrative salary, while a less popularized system tends to be the most profitable?
Moreover, the saturation of the marketplace is a situation that devalues the importance of the degree. The nation sees students paying endless amounts of money for a degree that would seem preliminary in the workforce. Chris Fitzgerald, a Language Professor, and writer of We are Teaching Too Many Students to do Jobs that our Society Doesn’t Need from The Journal says: "This (market saturation) has led to postgraduate degrees becoming the minimum requirement for positions that undergraduate degrees would have been good enough for ten years ago. Students who undergo Masters and subsequently Ph.D. studies after an undergraduate degree will typically spend nine years in the third level education" (Fitzgerald). Some rationales may lead to different answers, but one fact is that a demand for tradesmen exists all over the nation, while an innate inclination for students to enter low-demand fields takes precedence.
In a pool of varying career options, many fields offer abundant opportunities for higher salaries, job opportunities, etc. Jobs like electrical, HVAC, and plumbing are solid examples of fields that need more people. Opportunities within the technology industry are prevalent; US News quotes Couch by stating, "Many residential service companies have technicians making $100,000 in between regular pay, overtime and bonuses or commissions" (US News). Therefore, it is obvious that with more job opportunities and excellent salaries, a four-year degree is not the only lucrative or viable option for students at this time even if it is an agenda that is pushed heavily. Ultimately, vocational degrees afford students stable job markets and steady, reliable incomes while four-year degrees are robbing students with continuously inflated tuition and insignificant degrees. The desaturation of a market that was flourishing and was the backbone of America is due to the monopolization of a university system robbing fresh adults blind with inflated tuitions payments and insignificant degrees.
While it seems like a truly easy and logical decision for some students to consider a vocational degree, educators argue that if a student were to attend a 4-year institution then the student would be able to gain a sense of professionalism for the real world and obtain a positive perception in the working realm. In addition, students fear that they may not be viewed as intellectual as their four-year degree counterparts or that they will lose important college experiences.
On the other hand, educators would argue that university systems are of the utmost importance. As many students believe that the only way to success is with a 4-year degree— educators gear students to believe professionalism and success are directly linked to this form of education. Monash University (MU) published claims as to why attending a 4-year college is beneficial stating, “University graduates gain professional qualifications that are recognized and respected worldwide” (MU). However, many don’t see the benefits of hands-on jobs and the fact that several jobs for tradesmen are in fact professional and successful. Consider, for example, a master electrician. Travel, cultural exposure, communication skills, marketing, business management, etc. are all facets of this profession. There are many skills acquired in vocational professions that students spend years paying for tuition in order to gain. It does not make much sense to pay to learn important skills if they are an inherent part of a vocational profession already.
Educational systems lead individuals to believe that if a student isn't going to go to liberal arts or 4-year university, that student has given up opportunities for enlightenment and holistic understanding. In The Perceived Inherent Vice of Working-Class University Students, Mark Mallman states, “They also raise questions about the responsibility of higher education institutions in understanding and equipping working-class students with the necessary resources” (SageJournals1). With this in mind, many parents and students are under the impression that universities are preparing students with every facet possible for success. This is okay but, not all people attend college for the enlightening factors it may or may not provide— most attend a post-secondary education system to prepare them for the working class. Not to mention, college is not the only place people can learn or be enlightened. Students can read, travel abroad, serve in the Peace Corps, start a grassroots organization, volunteer, and network.
What is right for a student is not necessarily the most socially expected path. Though veneered with golden ideals, a liberal arts degree may not be right for you. As a student set yourself up for success. Don't be a sucker for the hype. Do what you really want to do.